If you are married or about to be married an important question will eventually pop up: should we combine our finances? There are many different factors to consider, but if you do decide to combine some portion of your finances then you will need to set up a joint bank account. What is a joint bank account and how can they help you manage your finances together? What specific steps need to be taken to share a bank account with your spouse (or spouse-to-be)?
Opening an account that you both have access to is not only smart for your finances, it is smart for your marriage. Thankfully the process couldn’t be easier.
First you need to identify what type of an account you want to open. In most cases the most logical account to be a joint account is a checking account to pay all of your joint bills like rent/mortgage, utilities, and so on.
You could just go down to the nearest bank and open up a free checking account, and that would be fine. The better choice is to identify an account — either local or online — that will pay you some sort of interest on your deposits. This could be an online checking account from a bank like Capital One or a local rewards checking account.
Once you’ve picked the account you want to open together, you need to apply together. If you’ve selected a local financial institution you will both need to go down to the bank together. (In some instances you could take the forms home and bring them back, but going together is easier.) Don’t forget to bring your state issued IDs to verify your identity. You’ll fill out the forms together, give the bank your personal information (address, social security number, etc.), and sign the forms in front of the bank employee.
Depending on the institution you should be getting your debit cards in the mail shortly after opening the account. You probably were given starter checks by the bank before you left on the day you opened the account as well. You’ll need to order more checks either online (preferred and likely less expensive) or through the bank.
The next thing to do is to somehow automate putting money into the account. You can set up direct deposit so both of your paychecks go into the account. This is the easiest method.
However, if you don’t plan to share everything on the money side of life then you might want to have direct deposit set up into another checking or savings account that you each have. From there you agree on how much money you will each contribute to your common monthly expenses and set up automatic transfers from your individual accounts to the joint accounts.
Once there is money in the account the easiest way to manage your bills together is to set up automatic bill payment out of the joint account. This will save you the hassle of writing checks with the benefit of being able to manage everything online. You can either setup bill pay through the bank or set up Electronic Funds Transfers (ETFs) through the individual service company you’ll be paying.
Now that you’ve got your joint bank account set up managing your finances together should be a lot easier.
However, you could make things a lot more easy by just combining all of your finances together. You are married (or getting married), right? The whole sharing your life with someone thing comes into play. Putting all of your individual eggs into one marriage basket helps make money decisions a lot easier. Remember, money is one of the top two things that couples fight over, so figuring it out before your get married or at the very beginning will make your married life a lot more enjoyable in the long run.
Photo by rivieramaya26 via Flickr
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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